Sunday, April 25, 2010

Franchising - Reboots, Remakes and Returns

A lot of people complain that there isn't an original thought in Hollywood anymore. Others would take that even further and include all of film. Not me. Yes, it is true that a good percentage of films being released these days are either remakes, reboots, or sequels, but I wouldn't say that is all bad. Sequels (like IRON MAN 2) have the potential to expand on their predecessors, which probably spent a good deal of time building up the characters and the universe of the film. They can be more fun or more creative. Reboots can give franchises new life when everything has been drained from a particular story arc or when a film didn't live up to its potential (reboots currently in the works: Superman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four). Remakes are probably the touchiest category I'll be examining. Remakes are often frowned upon for being utterly unoriginal and lacking any new vision. Oftentimes, films are remade for the simple purpose of exploiting a known franchise's popularity and inserting a couple "flavor-of-the-month" actors. However, to me, remakes are a way to right certain wrongs; a remake might contemporize a dated film or help fulfill the potential of a film that fell short. That is to say, in theory, a remake could be used for such things, but 99% of the time are not.

There is hope in that 1% though. If you're an idiot, you might think INFERNAL AFFAIRS is better than its American re-imagining THE DEPARTED, it's not. I found Roger Corman's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS to be downright unbearable, but I thoroughly enjoy Oz's musical version. Both THE FLY and THE THING are solid improvements of their classic originals. So, you see, there at least some room for optimism in the realm of remakes.

The next couple years (and the foreseeable future) are going to be littered with recycled plots and franchise building, so we might as well just get used to it and try to enjoy the good that might come out of it. There are some films on my radar that fall into one of these categories and I'd like to speculate as to their potential.

A NIGHTMARE OF ELM STREET - Directed by Samuel Bayer (Based on the Wes Craven original)
I feel as though this film is already receiving some unfair ire from film fans. Why unfair? Because this film doesn't really stand to tarnish the original. How so? Well, I don't know how to put this nicely...the original kinda sucks. Yeah, that's right. The Nightmare series does have a few shining moments (mostly stemming from Robert Englund's performance and the increasingly creative ways to inflict death), but that doesn't make it good filmmaking. The original film starts off well, but it quickly falls apart. Bad acting and plot holes drag the film down to its train-wreck conclusion. What the hell was supposed to be going on there!? Horror remakes are usually garbage, but I can't imagine it being any worse than the original. I think the trailer actually makes the film look promising. Sure, Jackie Earle Haley has some big shoes (and striped sweaters) to fill, but I bet he'll make a good Freddiy. I get the impression that this Krueger might be a bit darker than the fun-loving psychopath portrayed by Englund, which suits him. As for the directer - Samuel Bayer is a successful music-video director, which could certainly be a bad thing, but I currently have little to judge him off of. Everybody has to get there start somewhere.

This remake hits theaters next Friday.

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK - Directed by Breck Eisner

This remake has been planned for a couple years now. John Carpenter gave his blessing (though he seems like a nice guy who isn't too protective of his work). I'm not a huge ESCAPE fan, but I like the film. It's certainly good for its time, but I can see some potential in some sort of re-hash. It's a very imaginative piece of work that could benefit from some fleshing out in the proper hands. A lot of people have been hating on the announcement of the remake (Rotten Tomatoes included it in its Worst Ideas of the Week section), but I have a lot of respect for Breck Eisner after what he did with THE CRAZIES earlier this year. There he had another remake that most people didn't think was necessary and he pulled it off in a big way. All my optimism aside, there's one HUGE issue with this film being remade - main character and badass icon Snake Plissken. Who do you find to wear Kurt Russel's eye-patch. At this moment, I can't think of anyone that wouldn't come across as either underwhelming or incredibly annoying. For a while, this was going to be a starring vehicle for Gerard Butler, I just hope it does not go back to being. So, I guess I'm torn on the subject of this remake. I'll just have to wait and see. Right now, we're looking at a 2011 release date.

CAESAR - Directed by TBD

There has been a lot of talk over the past couple years about a PLANET OF THE APES reboot/prequel/remake. A lot of the talk has been about whether such a film will be getting made at all. It appears, at least at the moment, that it will indeed be getting made. I'm not a fanatic about this series either, but when I first heard the idea for the plot, I was intrigued. CAESAR is going to be about the first super-intelligent ape and the events that lead to there being a Planet of the Apes. To me, this sounds like good sci-fi, but "sounds like" is a lot different than "is". I later found out that this is actually a remake of PLANET OF THE APES IV, which I recently watched. I enjoyed it, but simply because it made me laugh and laugh a lot. Granted, all the APES films are a bit silly, but this one was particularly silly. How a remake can be pulled off, with presumably serious intentions, without becoming a laughingstock is a mystery, but one I await enthusiastically. Look for CAESAR (if it gets made) in 2012.

ARTHUR - Directed by Jason Winer

The only reason I bring this one up is because there was an announcement this past week that Helen Mirren was joining the cast. I was dismayed because I thought that this plan had been dropped. The original ARTHUR starred Dudley Moore as a rich playboy in what many people would consider a classic. The man who aims to take on the role in the remake: none other than professional douche-bag Russel Brand. I liked Brand well enough when he burst onto the scene in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, but it soon became apparent that the guy wasn't acting in that film and actually is a jackass in real life. The fact that Brand himself has been pushing for this remake for years only makes me hate him more. He's so egotistical that he campaigns for the iconic role. I hope this doesn't get made. Brand's star is fading. I can only imagine this film will be an incredible failure despite the Dame's participation.

TRON: LEGACY - Directed by Joseph Kosinski

TRON came out 28 years ago. On December 17th of 2010 the sequel hits theaters. Such a long time between installments is unprecedented, but it makes this film really exciting for some reason. If a TRON sequel had surfaced in the 80's, there's a good chance it would've sucked. I like TRON well enough, but it's certainly dated and a little boring. LEGACY seems like it might actually improve on the original, making it something more epic than it ever was meant to be. The trailers look great and the cast is solid, so I'm actually quite excited. The director is a bit of a mystery though. He has no prior credits and actually seems to be coming out of nowhere, but (I'm told) he has a lot of experience in graphic arts and a pending sci-fi script called OBLIVION. If I had to guess just judging from the trailer, I'd say this guy has some talent.

ALIEN Prequel - Directed by Ridley Scott

For a long time I've feared that the ALIEN series was dead, its only mark on this generation in the form of low-brow AVP films. I was more than a little excited when it was announced last year that Ridley Scott, director of the original ALIEN, would be returning to the franchise with a prequel. My excitement also came with a bit of trepidation considering this project was far from confirmed and Scott likes to entertain lots of different projects. However, an interview last week confirmed that he is indeed working on it and he anticipated a release at the end of 2011. From what I can tell from the information he's giving, this could be a very interesting film. Here's the article/interview - lots of good stuff inside:

More impending reboots and remakes:
TRUE GRIT - 12/2010 (Coen Brothers)
THE THING prequel - 2011 (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.)
OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL - (Shankman or Mendes)
PREDATORS - 7/9/10 (Antal)
STRAW DOGS - 2/25/11 (Lurie)
SPIDER-MAN - 5/2012 (Webb) - Ha! A man named Webb directed SPIDER-MAN

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